Head to Head: Engineer vs Elementalist
People who know me know I love summons. But more than that, I do love hybrids. Guild Wars 2 will offer a lot of ways to play hybrid with all professions, especially with the weapon swaps. However, the two most flexible on-the-fly hybrids have one thing in common… they do not have a weapon swap.
The elementalist swaps between 4 elements instead of swapping weapons, effectively changing his 5 weapon skills therefore changing his role during combat. He thus has access to 5*4=20 weapon skills during combat. The engineer uses kits that also changes his 5 weapon skills. He can equip up to 4 kits, giving him up to (4+1)*5=25 weapon skills during combat.
Players who like to adapt to the situation or to the needs of the team will want to keep an eye on those two professions.
Both professions offer many options for ranged damage, which is likely where they will spend most of their time. They do have options for doing damage at a closer range, probably good to use when there is a frontline to protect you. Engineers also have access to turrets which add to the dps while taking some of the heat off. They both also have skills to do AoE damage, and inflict a variety of conditions.
Both of those professions offer a variety of ways to control foes, many of which using snares, blinds, etc. The elementalist will need to know which elements are linked to which control methods (e.g. water for snare, earth for knockdown) but all these ways to control foes will be available to elementalists at a swap of an element. Engineers will need to plan ahead a bit better to make sure the kits they bring (if any) provide the controls they need. Grenades offer a variety of controls.
Both professions offer ways to support allies, like providing healing. Elementalists who want to heal ally only need to switch to water magic to have a number of healing skills ready. Most skills act of foes and provide splash healing to allies, meaning that they are best suited to heal the frontlines or at least allies that are being attacked by melee foes. Engineers are a bit more flexible with healing turrets, bandages (healing kit), and healing potions. The engineer’s healing potions also sometimes provide additional buffs, sometimes random buffs.
The elementalist’s flexibility is hard-coded in his elements, activated via F1-F4. An elementalist cannot by error leave his flexibility behind, but he can forget to use it. The engineer requires a bit more forethought. Each healing and utility skill gets a toolbelt counterpart activated by F1-F4. Kits thus come with their toolbelt skill replacing the skill you would have lots by slotting it. Regular healing and optional skills (non-kits) also get a toolbet skill attached meaning you get 2 skills for the price of 1 slot. Thus the engineer can bring up to 4 kits of his choice (with the healing kit mimicking the healer role) in addition to his weapon skills, or he can opt to bring fewer kits and instead carry more specific skills. The elementalist always has access 25 skills (not counting effects from swapping element).
An engineer not using kits would still have a total of 14 skills (5 weapons, 1 healing, 1 elite, 3 optionals, and 4 toolbelt) but would lose all ability to switch role during combat. An engineer using 1 kit would have the equivalent of a weapon swap (2 x 5 skills) + 8 skills (5 skills – 1 used by the kit + 4 toolbet) giving a total of 18 skills and some flexibility. With 2 kits, the total is 3×5 + 3+4 = 21. At 3 kits, this sums to 4×5 + 2+4 = 26. At 4 kits this sums to 5×5 + 1+4 = 30. That is, an engineer using kits can more than double the number of skills he can access in combat.
An engineer using 3 kits is rougly equivalent to an elementalist in terms of number of skills available during combat. The main difference here is that the elementalist has more freedom on which optional skills he brings, whereas the engineer has more freedom on which kits he brings. So, where do you like your freedom, on slots 1-5 or slots 6-9?
The two professions offer a lot more on-the-fly diversity than other professions. The main difference being that engineers can customize their level of flexibility, whereas the elementalist has it built-in. Clearly two good options for anyone who like to adapt to the situation.
I do like my summons, so engineer will be my main first. However, I also plan to play elementalist. What would you pick?